To determine the variability of the 16S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer region (ISR) of the newly described Acinetobacter baylyi, 88 clones containing ISR amplicons were screened and 14 chosen for further analysis. Two different sized 16S-23S rRNA ISRs were distinguished comprising five variable and four conserved nucleotide blocks. The major regions of heterogeneity between the different sized ISRs were due to blocks of substitutions with unique secondary structures interspersed with nucleotide substitutions, rather than differences caused by presence or absence of tRNA genes, which is often the case. Recombination events causing shuffling of nucleotide blocks are considered the most likely explanation for the mosaic structure observed between the different copies of the ISR. Single base differences present in the long ISR (LISR) were then exploited in attempts to detect possible heterogeneity between rrn copies in Acinetobacter baylyi but variability was not detected by RFLP analysis of LISR-specific PCR products. These primers were shown to be highly specific for 3 Acinetobacter baylyi strains based on LISR sequence homogeneity.